Loading screens often suck. But they can occasionally become more than just periods of time where you are forced to sit around and wait. In Assassin’s Creed, a tradition has formed of letting players run around in an endless void and it has (mostly) stuck around.
(This post was originally published on July 26. It’s now been updated with some information about Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.)
Not long ago I decided to finish up the few Assassin’s Creed games I had never completed or played. I started with Odyssey, a game I got halfway through before other things pulled me away. Booting it up I discovered the fun loading screens seen in previous games were gone. I was sad.
I fully admit this isn’t the MOST important thing in the series. But there is something comforting and even nostalgic about running around a giant, weird, cyber-void as an assassin. It’s become something I just expect out of this series. When I start up an Assassin’s Creed game I have an internal checklist of “Things I Want To See And Experience.”
- Climbing tall towers.
- Jumping from tall towers.
- Meeting historical figures.
- Way too many collectibles.
- Some crappy mini-games, usually involving puzzles.
- Killing people while running by them in a slick way.
- Running around the loading screen, sometimes flicking my hidden blades in and out.
Odyssey delivers on most of these, except the last bullet point. Not only are there no hidden blades, but there’s also no loading screen shenanigans. This got me thinking about loading screens and their history throughout the Assassin’s Creed games. Assassin’s Creed Unity is the only other “main” Assassin’s Creed game that ditched my beloved loading screen shenanigans. Yet another reason it ranks so low on our list! (Not really...)
I’m not sure why Unity ditched the “Animus Memory Corridors” or as I call them, “Silly data rooms.” At first, I thought it might be a narrative issue. In Unity, you are playing a home console version of Helix created by Abstergo and aren’t using a traditional animus. But then Syndicate, which also featured the same main character using that same home console version, included the silly data rooms.
So I have to guess that Unity ditched them either because they were a technical hurdle that the devs didn’t want to deal with on their first next-gen Assassin’s Creed game or they felt like it was time to shake things up. Or it was a bit of both.
These memory corridor loading screens would return in Assasins’s Creed Origins too, and I loved them. (Just another reason it’s the best game in the franchise...) But then, as I mentioned earlier, they didn’t come back in the latest game, 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
According to Gamerant, Ubisoft has confirmed that these loading screens will be back in Valhalla. However, there’s a wrinkle to remember. One of the big selling points of these new consoles is how they won’t have loading screens. Or at least, very few loading screens and they will be short. Will Valhalla on PS4 and Xbox One have these silly rooms, but not on PS5 and Xbox Series X?
Only time will tell. Maybe Ubisoft should include an option on the new consoles to turn on artificial loading screens between cutscenes. Just so I can have my silly data rooms and the folks who don’t care can turn them off and never think about them again.
Update (12/13/2020, 2:00 p.m. ET): Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has been out for some time. I reviewed the game and enjoyed it. But I haven’t written about running around the loading screen in it. Let’s fix that!
So yes, as Ubisoft confirmed earlier in the year, you can indeed run around the memory corridor in Valhalla while the game loads. And also, as I feared, the newer consoles load the game much faster than the older consoles. I played on PS4 and then switched to PS5 and noticed a decrease in how much running around I got to do while waiting. Loading times haven’t vanished entirely from Valhalla on PS5, but they are shorter.
However, Valhalla brings something new to the table and franchise that makes up for this lack of running around time. Using two weapons, you can hold an attack button and just chop the air forever. Or at least until the game loads. Normally, this isn’t the case. In the real game, during combat, you can only chop for a few seconds before you run out of stamina and have to stop. But in the wonderful world of the memory corridor, stamina appears to be non-existent, letting Eivor chop away. Chop, chop all day.
So I’m happy to report that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla not only continues the franchise’s tradition of running around during loading screens, but adds something to it. A little something-something, if you will. And I will. I will never stop chopping.